Opposition to House Concurrent Resolution 182
The Honorable Connie Morella
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D. C.
Dear Congresswoman Morella,
As a young man growing up in Texas during the era of school
desegregation, I was exposed to my share of bigotry and ignorance.
African Americans, I was told, are genetically inclined to be lazy,
dishonest, and violent. African Americans were not allowed to vote,
unless they could pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax, which
frequently was impossible. Rarely, if ever, did African Americans hold
elected office, own homes, or send their children to college.
While the races do not yet enjoy equality of opportunity, I had
mistakenly allowed myself to fall into the happy belief that the
wholesale stereotyping of groups of people on the basis of false
beliefs, bigotry, and ignorance was a thing of the past. This belief
was shattered when a friend sent me a copy of your H. R. Con. Res. 182,
"A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress with respect
to child custody, child abuse, and victims of domestic and family
violence." The resolution, which borrows heavily from NOW's Anti-Father
Resolutions of 1996, would wave a magic wand over the custody problems
of children in divorced families, and make them substantially worse.
Mrs. Morella, I am a divorced father, and my three teenaged daughters
are the light of my life. I don't have custody of them at the moment,
although I did ask for joint custody after my ex-wife divorced me,
while she asked for sole custody. According to your resolution, this
makes me equivalent to a wife-beater, doesn't it?
This is, after all, the implication of your resolution's assertion that
"fathers who abuse their children's mothers are more likely to dispute
custody and visitation than are fathers who are not violent." I've heard
this statement before, although a few of the terms have changed. It used
to be "blacks are more likely to rape than whites," and it was used to
justify mob lynching, in much the same way that your resolution seeks to
kick ALL fathers, not just a small number of abusive fathers, out of
their children's lives after divorce.
To top it off, it's not even factual: only seven percent of "batterers"
sought any form of custody in the Liss and Stahly study "Domestic
Violence and Child Custody" (printed in Hansen and Harway, "Battering
and Family Therapy, A Feminist Perspective", Sage, 1993) while Maccoby
and Mnookin ("Dividing the Child", Harvard University Press, 1995)
reported that custody is contested in nearly fifty percent of divorces
overall. Abusers don't want custody, Mrs. Morella, they want fresh
Please understand that the relationship of parents and children is
created by God and protected by the United States Constitution as a
"fundamental liberty interest." It is not something to be lightly
discarded, absent good cause and due process, and certainly not in the
name of misguided and misinformed attempts at social engineering.
Parents who seek to continue in the same responsible roles they played
for their children in the intact family should not be stigmatized as
wife-beaters, potential wife-beaters, or "acting like wife-beaters;" they
should be hailed as heroes for enduring the trauma and the expense of
custody proceedings, they should be supported by the state, and they
should be counseled, educated, and helped through low-conflict legal
mechanisms such as mediation, which produce better long-range results for
the children than the litigation your resolution seeks to entrench.
Are you aware, Mrs. Morella, that the Census Bureau reports that
parents with Joint Custody pay over 90% of their court-ordered child
support, while parents who don't see their children pay less than 45%?
Are you aware that parents who have their children ripped out of their
lives suffer high rates of unemployment and mental illness, as a direct
consequence of this action? Are you aware that, compared to children in
two-parent families, children in the sole custody of a single parent are:
- 5 times more likely to commit suicide
- 32 times more likely to run away
- 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
- 14 times more likely to commit rape
- 9 times more likely to drop out of school
- 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
- 9 times more likely to end up in a state operated institution
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison
- 5 to 30 times more likely to suffer child abuse
[Editor's note: See our statistics page for sources of these figures.]
Please consider that the world created by your resolution is many times
more likely to be brutal, violent, and filled with hatred and bigotry
than the one we live in today, contrary, I believe, to your intentions.
Domestic violence is certainly a serious issue, in all of its forms:
spousal and partner violence, child abuse, and elder abuse, and I agree
with you that government's intervention has so far been ineffective,
resulting in little more than a modest decline in the number of husbands
murdered by wives over the last twenty years. I don't believe, however,
that your prescriptions are the right ones.
A friend of mine, Erin Pizzey, has been working on this problem since she
founded in 1971 the world's first shelter for battered women, "Chiswick
Women's Aid" in London, and since she wrote the first book on domestic
violence, "Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear." Mrs. Pizzey has
told me that there is most often no connection between the violence of a
couple toward each other and violence against their children. Very
often, she tells me, she has been able to create a loving relationship
between father and child, once they are removed from the "mother's
Lenore Walker confirms this in "The Battered Woman," where she reports
that while a third of both battered wives and abusive husbands have
physically abused their children, the remaining two-thirds have not.
There is no basis in the research for the belief implicit in your
resolution that automatically kicking fathers out of their children's
lives upon a divorce filing will make things better for the children.
If only it were that easy.
States have considered the "primary caretaker presumption," and have
generally rejected it. In California, this happened as recently as
1996. It was a well-considered rejection, led by two mothers with
experience as family law attorneys. The "best interest" test has to
prevail, Mrs. Morella, or we chain children to abusive but marginally
fit mothers with no one to take their side, to keep their watch, and to
protect them from the boyfriends, lovers, and step-fathers who will
inevitably take their turn at mother's side. As a recent Heritage
Foundation study shows, children living with a mother and a cohabiting
boyfriend are 33 times more likely to suffer child abuse than children
living with both of their natural parents.
Sharing is a virtue, and a difficult value to teach our children. Let us
not shrink from the serious responsibilities we face as parents, and you
face as a lawmaker, to help our children come to embrace high challenges
and strong values through our proper nurturing, guidance, love and
support. Parents we learn to share custody of children model this value
for their children, to the great benefit to all concerned. Parents
unwilling to share, communicate, and cooperate deserve a lower status,
but only when they have proved themselves obstructive.
Please withdraw your resolution before it adds fuel to the fires of
revenge burning within the souls of those few divorced parents - and
the professional Father-bashers - who seek to use our children as
pawns to advance their own interests.
Coalition of Parent Support
10811 Alderbrook Lane
Cupertino, CA 95014
Honorable Co-authors of H. R. Con. Res. 182
Honorable Members of the House Judiciary Committee
Coalition of Parent Support Board of Directors
Honorable Anna Eshoo
Honorable Tom Campbell
Honorable Newt Gingrich
Honorable Dick Gephardt
This letter published with permission of the author.